Apr 16

“The Big One” Has Big Heart But Feels Under-Done

11107735_10206307386668624_3810527196770342390_nPresented by Lesley University
Written by Liv Cummins, Sandy McKnight
Directed by Liv Cummins
Music direction by Elena Blyskal

April 9-12, 2015
Lesley University
Marran Theater
34 Mellen Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
The Big One on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

Lesley University’s pop/rock musical is, at best, is benign and rather sweet. A number of struggling Los Angeles songwriters gather in the basement of a dilapidated building at the guidance of Paul (Ryan Bevard) to workshop their music. The goal of each workshop participant is to hit it big with their work, to be featured in a commercial, movie, or by a well-known artist. Meanwhile, California itself prepares for a “big hit” from the end result of a series of earthquakes. There’s a lot of charm to its plot and character arcs, but Liv Cummins and Sandy McKnight’s show doesn’t quite come together. Continue reading

Apr 13

Daniil Kharms Continues to Charm in imaginary beasts’ Betty Bam!

Photo credit: Roger Metcalf

Photo credit: Roger Metcalf

Presented by imaginary beasts
Directed by Matthew Woods, Joey C. Pelletier, and Michael Underhill
Written by Daniil Kharms
Translation by Zoya Derman
Adapted by The Ensemble

April 10 – May 2, 2015
At the Plaza Black Box Theatre
at the Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont Street, Boston MA
imaginary beasts on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) The innovative and evocative imaginary beasts continue with their year-long exploration of Stalinist-era author, Daniil Kharms, with Betty Bam! Their last attack on his material, KNOCK!, was a condensed affair, a multi-character and multi-story primer on Kharms’ bleak humor and deeply unsettling monologues. The actors took pratfalls and grafted the absurdist theater onto a sort of vaudeville act. In Betty Bam!, the visual nods remain in the early-twentieth century, but the aesthetic switches to black and white film, page-boy cuts, and a set styled into a cartoon explosion. The five actresses who depict Betty Bam’s fractured identity (Beth Pearson, Amy Meyer, Molly Kimmerling, Sarah Gazdowicz, and Kiki Samko) are each a live action Betty Boop caught in an explosion of a different sort, one that takes the guise of an interruption into their life: the police, Ivan (Cameron Cronin) and Pytor (William Schuller). As with KNOCK!, the police are an oppressive force, one here to take Betty to an unknown fate. The action of taking her away makes up the entirety of the plot. Continue reading

Feb 26

Icy Distance in Apollinaire Theatre Company’s GREENLAND

Photo credit: Apollinaire Theatre Company

Photo credit: Apollinaire Theatre Company

Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Co.
By Nicholas Billon
Directed by Meg Taintor

Feb. 20 – March 15, 2015
189 Winnisimmet Street
Chelsea, MA 02150
Apollinaire on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Chelsea, MA) One of the more terrifying aspects of climate change is its irreversibleness.  Once the environment has altered, it’s impossible to get the world back to where it was.  In Nicolas Billon’s 60-minute Greenland, we don’t only contemplate the fragility of the planet but the family unit.  The irreversible change that befalls Tanya (Charlotte Kinder), her uncle Jonathan (Dale J. Young), and her aunt Judith (Christine Power) is smaller than global warming but, in the show, just as brutal. Continue reading

Feb 06

“The Second Girl” Keeps to Familiar Territory

Photo credit: Hunting Theatre Co

Photo credit: Hunting Theatre Co

Presented by Huntington Theatre Co.
Written by Huntington Playwriting Fellow Ronan Noone
Directed by Campbell Scott

Jan. 16 – Feb. 21, 2015
South End / Calderwood
Pavilion at the BCA
Huntington Theatre on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

The class war still rages on.  People from countries with fewer opportunities than ours wash up on the shores of America willing to work sixteen-hour days at thankless jobs.  In “The Second Girl,” the audience is transported to the influx of Irish immigration in the earlier twentieth century.  Specifically, we watch a full day in the life of Bridget O’Sullivan (Kathleen McElfresh) and aspiring actress Cathleen O’Leary (MacKenzie Meehan) in August 1912.  Both work as maids for the summer home of wealthy employers.  The carping and melodrama of our heroines’ everyday world is mined for a play that seems a little too grounded in the immigration stories that came before. Continue reading

Dec 08

“Distant Neighbors” and Close Encounters

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Sheldon Brown (Adams) & Louise Hamill (Talia). Photo by E. Milanovich Photography

Presented by Fresh Ink Theatre
Written by Patrick Gabridge
Directed by Liz Fenstermaker

December 5 – 13, 2014
Boston Playwrights Theatre
949 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA
Fresh Ink on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

Fresh Ink Theatre’s Distant Neighbors hits at the heart of what the best science fiction is about: people reacting to technological advancement.  If you read (or watch the film adaption of) Jurassic Park, you’re not just consuming entertainment to see how people create dinosaurs, but how people react to creating dinosaurs.  Similarly, the characters of Distant Neighbors react to a change in an intimate environment.  Here, however, the source of upheaval is the wing of an apparent spacecraft that comes crashing down into the backyards of Adams (Sheldon Brown), Talia (Louise Hamill), and Griffin (Daniel Boudreau), three neighbors who know nothing about each other.  It’s a wonderful starting point for a story about intimacy and paranoia, but I’m not sure it pans out well.

Continue reading

Nov 06

“Safekeeping” Reading and Safety in Numbers

Photo by Nile Scott Shots

Photo by Nile Scott Shots.

Presented by The Accessible Theatre
by Rob Zellers
Directed by Adam Sanders

Nov. 3, 2014 at 7:30PM
Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Accessible Theatre on Facebook

Disclaimer: This production included Queen Geek, Kitty Drexel in its cast. For this reason, this review is tempered to accommodate the NETG reviewing policy on Geek performance involvement.

Review by Gillian Daniels
(Cambridge, MA) Joe (Felix Teich) is an artist who creates complex dioramas and a loving and temperamental caretaker of his brother, sixteen-year old Robert (Elliott Purcell).  Due to his cerebral palsy, Robert spends his days bound to their run-down apartment, watching soap operas.  The Accessible Theatre brings us a reading of a play about brothers who have built their own world, insulated from the impoverished, drug-addled reality of their Ohio city.  As with many stories, the status quo is disrupted when a woman, social worker Marianne (Rachel Sacks), walks into their lives.  Her intrusion is a benevolent one, however, an attempt to confirm Robert is getting the help he needs.

Continue reading

Oct 14

Theatre on Fire Ignites IT FELT EMPTY

Presented by Theatre on Fire
By Lucy Kirkwood
Directed by Maureen Shea

October 10 – November 1, 2014
The Charlestown Working Theater
Charlestown, MA 02129
Theatre on Fire on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

WARNING: SEXUAL VIOLENCE.

One of the most terrifying things about the circumstances of Dijana (Elizabeth Milanovich) is how convinced she is that she’s in control of them.  Theatre on Fire gives us a chilling story of a woman clinging to her mental well-being by playing a cheerful, even humorous Pollyanna in an unwilling career as a prostitute.  The American premiere of the show gets under one’s skin and stays there, emotionally and sometimes physically moving the audience further into Dijana’s claustrophobic, darkly comic misery. Continue reading

Oct 01

imaginary beasts Will KNOCK! You Out of Your Comfort Zone

Photo by Roger Metcalf

Photo by Roger Metcalf

Presented by imaginary beasts
By Daniil Kharms
Directed by Matthew Wood
Dramaturgy by Matthew McMahan

Sept. 26 – Oct. 18, 2014
At the Plaza Black Box Theatre
at the Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont Street, Boston MA
imaginary beasts on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) A joke in the absurdist, Stalin-era work of Daniil Kharms is the same as a violent pratfall: random, shocking in its flippancy, and somehow charming.  The punchlines in Knock! The Daniil Kharms Project involve a man forgetting his name due to a number of bricks dropped on his head or a romantic couple disappearing in the middle of the night by the secret police.  Utilizing a fun, avant-garde set design by Christopher Bocchiaro and Matthew Woods, imaginary creatures adapts Kharms’ experimental black humor with confidence. The theatre group doesn’t let anything like a sketchy plot or a lingering sense of doom from an oppressive government get in the way of a good time. Continue reading

Sep 08

“Sweeney Todd” Delights in Dire Tragedy

Christopher Chew, Paul C. Soper. Photo by Mark S. Howard

Photo by Mark S. Howard. Christopher Chew, Paul C. Soper.

Presented by the Lyric Stage of Boston
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed & Staged by Spiro Veloudos
Music Director, Jonathan Goldberg

Sept. 5 – Oct. 11, 2014
140 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116
Lyric on Facebook

Review Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) In today’s entertainment landscape, probably the most surprising thing about The Lyric Stage’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is how un-sexy it makes murder. No, grisly death probably shouldn’t be attractive as a rule, but television shows like Hannibal and Dexter and even some thriller novels give serial killers a stylized warmth. Blood is splashed artfully over plastic tarps and cannibalized flesh is prepared with exquisite attention to detail for unsuspecting dinner guests. Stephen Sondheim’s infamous musical gives us only Sweeney Todd’s icy vengeance, spinning more out of control with every throat he slits in his barber’s chair, and Mrs. Lovett’s questionable baking skills. Continue reading

Aug 12

Actresses Define an Era in “Playhouse Creatures”

Andrew San Photography

Andrew San Photography

Presented by Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company
By April DeAngelis
Directed by Anna Trachtman

August 1 – 17, 2014
The Factory Theatre
Boston, MA
Maiden Phoenix on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston) Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company puts on the sort of historical play I love. Playhouse Creatures looks at the Restoration Era with new eyes, examining the lives of actors Mary Betteron (Christine Power), Ms. Marshall (Janelle Mills), Nell Gwyn (Emily White), and Ms. Farley (Emma Goodman) as they take to the English stage once women are lawfully allowed to act again. Their agendas diverge wildly: they do it for money, fame, or unbridled joy. Regardless, the show is a delicious exploration of what women looking to make art do when faced with a patriarchal society. Continue reading